With feedlot manure, it pays to be precise

Jun 02, 2011

The same precision farming techniques that work with crops can work with manure management on cattle feedlots, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Agricultural engineers Roger Eigenberg and Bryan Woodbury and their colleagues with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Clay Center, Neb., map the distribution of on the surface of feedlots and the flow of liquid manure in rain runoff.

This research could lead to both precision harvesting of manure and also precision application of manure to crop fields, while controlling nutrient losses, gas emissions, and odors.

The scientists, at the ARS Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, map manure distribution by slowly towing a GPS-equipped conductivity meter over feedlot pens and cropland. The meter estimates the amount and quality of manure in various places on the feedlot surface by measuring the manure's ability to conduct electricity.

Manure contains salt from feed supplements. Salt, in solution, is an excellent conductor of electricity.

The researchers used an ARS-developed computer program, called ESAP ( Spatial Analysis Program), to choose spots on the feedlots and a nearby hayfield to sample soils, rather than sample randomly. Eigenberg and his colleagues used the program to associate high soil conductivity levels with manure solids and with the chloride in the salts found in manure.

These techniques could be used to help feedlot operators recover valuable byproducts from the feedlot surface, such as manure suitable for burning to generate steam. It could also allow selective harvesting for a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen and phosphorus content, by scraping from the "sweet spot" of the pen.

Eigenberg and Woodbury also mapped a hayfield, downslope of the Clay Center feedlot, designed to capture and use manure nutrients.

The scientists found that the liquid manure in rain runoff was being unequally distributed to the hayfield. So, they made adjustments to flow tubes, resulting in a more uniform runoff and a more effective treatment area.

Explore further: New system to detect mercury in water systems

More information: Read more about this research in the May/June 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/2011/may11/feedlot0511.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Digging deep for ways to curb ammonia emissions

Sep 28, 2010

Dairy farmers can greatly reduce ammonia emissions from their production facilities by injecting liquid manure into crop fields below the soil surface, according to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Cost effective manure management

Apr 05, 2011

Recycling manure is an important practice, especially for large livestock producers. Manure can be used as fertilizer to aid in crop production, aiding livestock producers that grow their own feed crops. While manure does ...

Improve crop yield by removing manure solids

Mar 29, 2011

Manure has long been used as a crop fertilizer, but the challenge of finding an efficient use of the nutrients found in manure is ever present. The ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus in manure is low in relation to the nutrient ...

Put more nitrogen into milk, not manure

May 28, 2010

The more efficient dairy farmers are in managing nitrogen, the more milk their cows will produce and the less nitrogen will be wasted in manure and urine, according a study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists ...

Assessing antibiotic breakdown in manure

Mar 04, 2010

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Scott Yates is studying how oxytetracycline (OTC), an antibiotic that is administered to animals, breaks down in cattle manure.

Recommended for you

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

22 hours ago

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 0